Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 4:19-20 AThe woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.@
Jesus had touched a sensitive nerve. She liked Jesus, but did not like what He was doing to her. His supernatural knowledge of her past scared her.
The carnal mind is always ingenious in finding ways to cast off conviction. To stave off more, and possibly worse, revelations, the Samaritan used two ploys: flattery and diversion.
Calling Jesus a prophet was the highest compliment she could give Him. The Samaritans believed there had not been a prophet, a person who had direct communications from God, since Moses. To them the next Prophet after Moses would be the Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:18).
Having used flattery, she moved on to diversion. She desperately wanted to keep the conversation away from the unpleasant discussion of her sin. The woman was like most lost people, not angry at the Gospel, just afraid of it.
Wanting to avoid specific application, she tried to change the subject to one of a vague and general nature. It is always easier to talk about religion in general than to apply the message to self.
Samaritans believed Gerizim was God=s chosen site for worship. They rejected all the Old Testament, except for the first five books.
Since Jerusalem is not designated in the Pentateuch as the place of worship, the Samaritans rejected it. Believing many events of the Pentateuch took place on Gerizim, they chose it as the sacred place of worship.
John 4:21 AJesus said unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.@
Jesus refused to argue with her. He told her the controversy is irrelevant. The rival claims of Gerizim and Jerusalem will soon vanish in light of the revelation He is about to unveil.
The very premise which was of utmost importance to her was set aside as indifferent to Jesus. Oh that we all had His wisdom to discern pertinent truth.
Issues that cause turmoil in a fellowship are often trivial, matters passing away. Our discernment is often distorted.
ABelieve Me@ implies He is about to state a truth she will find difficult to believe. The Lord here summarily set aside what had been an almost universal principle, that human worship should be attached to a certain location. Each deity had its own particular place where it could best be appealed to.
Jesus didn=t end with this explosive truth. He added, not only is the place of worship of no consequence. Customs of worship don=t matter either. The woman had mentioned Aour fathers@ (v. 20), but Jesus pointed her to AThe Father.@
She thinks she has antiquity and succession on her side, but tradition is a weak leg to stand on. Customs and forms handed to us from our forebears must ever be scrutinized to determine if they still help the fellowship and please the Father. A tradition must have present relevance and importance, or needs to be discarded.
John 4:22 AYe worship ye know not what. We know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.@
Samaritan religion was filled with pagan practices. Their knowledge of God was terribly stunted. They realized Whom to worship, but did not know Him or how.
The Jews were not perfect, but did have a horror of idolatry. Also, they knew more about YHWH because they accepted all the Old Testament.
Most important of all, Asalvation is of the Jews.@ Be careful to note this means salvation proceeds from, not belongs to, the Jews. Saying salvation is of the Jews was simply a way of stating the Messiah would be a Jew.
John 4:23-24 ABut the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.@
The Father seeks true worshipers. Hence, all who are seeking His face should be striving to become sincere worshipers.
These two verses give four lessons to help us be true worshipers. First, the place does not determine worship.
The chosen site was neither Gerizim nor Jerusalem, but both and anywhere and everywhere. God can be worshiped anywhere people are in the right condition to worship.
Second, God is spirit. He is immaterial, invisible, incorruptible, independent, and unrestricted. Free from all limitations of time and space, God is not confined to any place, any ritual, or any thing.
Third, we must worship in spirit. The human spirit, the part of us which enables us to communicate with God, is the seat of worship, the sacred site, as it were. Since God is spirit, our offering to Him must include gifts of the spirit – love, loyalty, obedience, devotion, etc.
Though spirit-worship is what God desires, people prefer to worship Him with robes, incense, flowers, ritual, etc. The tendency in worship is always toward complexity. The battle is in keeping us ever striving toward simplicity. God seeks those whose worship is not dependent on outward places and circumstances.
Genuine worship is when people through their spirit attain to friendship and intimacy with God. Worship is our spirit speaking to, loving, adoring, and meeting with His Spirit.
Fourth, we must worship in truth. This entails complete sincerity, and also denotes reality, having a correct knowledge of the One worshiped.
An accurate, true idea of God is essential to correct worship. People can worship God aright only when they accept the revelation of God in Christ as ultimate Truth.
In worship, Object and offerer are both important. Worship hinges on God and us.
The main New Testament word for worship (proskuneo) literally means Ato kiss towards.@ It involves an expression of adoration (kiss) and a conception of the Object Atowards@ Whom the adoration is directed.
Worship dies when we lose our wonder of God, when our thoughts wander from Him, and when we are not conscious of the presence of the Infinite. Worship is its best when we are overwhelmed by the contrast between His greatness versus our own sinfulness, and when we seek to narrow the gap between the two.